University Day and Community Picnic (U-Day) entertained Thompson Hall Lawn last Thursday, Sept. 13, as thousands of students learned about and signed up for more than 250 clubs and organizations across campus.
The sidewalks around Thompson and Murkland Halls were encompassed with students, dogs, and even a cat, with gymnastics and acrobatic performers providing visual entertainment on the lawn. Even Durham residents stopped by to see the commotion, all while a section of Main Street stretching between the Edgewood Rd. and Garrison Ave. intersections were blocked off from traffic.
Comprised of nearly 280 tables, 2018 marked the biggest U-Day yet, forcing it to stretch across the street to Scott Hall lawn, according to Associate Director of University and Presidential Events Megan Brunelle ‘11, who had been planning the event since March.
“We have outgrown T-Hall lawn over the past couple years… So, we have about 200 tables on this side [T-Hall], and another 80 tables on the other side [Scott Hall],” Brunelle said. “We can obviously keep fitting more, so we’ll probably have to grow a little more not to have a waiting list next year hopefully.”
She added that in order to get a table at U-Day, clubs and organizations are required to sign up through the Memorial Student Union (MUB). While not every club makes it off the waiting list, due to this year’s inclement weather date change from its original Wednesday date, everyone was able to get a table.
Brunelle typically spends “most of the summer” assigning and figuring out where the tables will be set up, which is far from easy when clubs range from singing and dancing to other interests like anime or chess teams. Her strategy, however, is to categorize tables by like-groups.
“There’s so many options, so you can literally have one interest and find a club for it,” Brunelle said about UNH’s variety of student organizations. “It just makes your UNH experience better – you can meet more people, have more things to do, and kind of get out of your room and out of your shell.”
Sophomores Ashley Lauderdale, a sociology major, and Hannah Rubin, a communications major, did just that, as they went to their second U-Day, noting a difference compared to last year.
“There’s a lot more orgs [than last year], or a few more that I’ve noticed already. I think they have a lot of free stuff too and there’s a lot more people that are talking to us instead of letting us walk by,” Rubin said.
Many clubs gave out candy, water bottles, stickers and iPhone accessories as souvenirs when people signed up for their club as a way to incentivize students. Many larger companies and groups were there as well, ranging from Xfinity Cable to Hydroflask, giving out various coupons and flyers.
Good giveaways don’t necessarily mean the club will be a good fit, explained Lauderdale and Rubin. To Lauderdale, a good club is one where she “feels welcomed,” something that took her a couple tries until she finally found where she did – Alpha Phi Omega (APO).
For Rubin, she likes to join clubs that align with her passion, which is photography. This year, she signed up for student theater group Mask and Dagger because they were looking for a photographer. She said that for her it’s also important to “vibe” with the people in the club.
Lauderdale noted how last year as a first-year student she “[f]elt like it was more stressful because we were trying to find an organization where we fit in,” and she now feels confident on where she does.
Both students, like many others, used U-Day to browse around and to get out of their rooms. Rubin pointed out there was food as well. The dining halls were closed (except for Holloway Commons, which offered a limited menu) in celebration of the event. The dining staff prepared a BBQ for students, with options including hamburgers, hot dogs, a vegetarian option, and a large selection of drinks and ice cream.
In taking in the span of the event, both agreed U-Day was a positive event for the community in the sense that it “brings people together” and “makes everyone feel like we are actually a family” while also showcasing different clubs and organizations people might not have known about if they didn’t attend.
On the flip side, two nutrition majors, junior Laura Hohenstein and senior Emily Pagliarini, tabled at U-Day for their club, Students for Global Health.
The club, currently in its sophomore year, was founded by president Brianna McGrath and recent UNH graduate Marin Strong when McGrath “had the idea and didn’t see it really comprehensively employed for any other club on campus,” according to Hohenstein.
“We’re an interdisciplinary org that works to promote the health of the environment, the globe and everyone that lives on it,” Hohenstein said, who also explained the club’s past and upcoming events, such as a “clean water hike where we simulated and the world-wide average walk to clean water which is just between three and four miles.”
Hohenstein also talked about the Sustainability Summit, which “showcases work that professors are doing on sustainability at UNH,” happening next semester.
Pagliarini made a point to say that it’s important in that “everyone in our club has a voice, and since we are a new org, every idea is welcome and anything to promote global health.”
The girls tabled through the entirety of U-Day from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and had their table located amongst other environment-focused groups.
“We gave out some metal straws, because you know, promoting sustainability,” Hohenstein said, which students were given if they signed up for the club.
“I think like 200 people signed up,” she added, showing four pages of notebook paper filled with signatures.
For alumni Phebe Moore ’13, and Sarah Hunt ‘09, U-Day is a time for them to reflect on their time at the University of New Hampshire.
Together, they assisted set-up, take down and with the vendors of the day. They were a part of the team to which earlier Brunelle credited as “the most amazing group,” explaining that they set up tables in only an hour and a half.
“I just like being back on campus and seeing all the kids and all the clubs that have continued to grow since my time,” Moore said. “And interacting more with the students because we don’t really get to do that as much as I’d like to [at her current job].”
Neither of them could believe the size of U-Day and how big it has gotten in the past couple years. “It’s massive compared to when I graduated. It wasn’t even over in this section [Scott Hall Lawn],” Hunt said.
They explained the importance of clubs and getting involved, with Moore adding that she regrets not joining any of “these awesome clubs.” She was also involved in different ways including her membership within the honor society and holding an on-campus job.
The general consensus of U-Day amongst student attendees was that it succeeded in bringing the community, a notion Hunt finds the most encouraging.
“I think that it’s kind of neat that the town people of Durham, also the students, and the faculty… it’s bringing them all together,” she said.
For students who missed out on signing up for a club, it’s not too late; meeting times of clubs can be found on Wildcat Link, and clubs are still looking for more members. While U-Day isn’t the only chance to sign up, it was a sure-fire way to bring people together and awareness to the present and future doings the Durham campus has in store this year.